8 Day French Way (Sarria - Santiago) | Magic Hill HolidaysAs a very young child, I remember my granny bringing me on a pilgrimage to Knock. The long train ride, the station in Claremorris and transferring to the bus, walking around singing hymns, they are still very clear memories.  In more recent times, it was the Camino that grabbed my interest. Illness and mobility issues meant that it was never more than a dream. This year, however, new knees, improved health and the anniversary of surviving sepsis in 2014 meant that it was now a serious plan. I thought Holy Week would give the spiritual aspect to ‘pilgrimage’ that an ordinary walking holiday might not have. Initially booked out, I jumped at the opportunity when a cancellation arose. My enthusiasm was further fuelled by a visit to thhe Camino office in St James Church on Thomas St.


Sarria to Santiaga, the last 100+km was the proposed route. Despite the offer of shorter daily walks, I started out the first morning with certain dreads and fears. We had Mass in the Monastery of Sta Madelena, a ‘start of journey’ photo shoot and then the steep descent into the valley of the Rio Pequeno. The enthusiasm was palpible. However, every down will have an up and the climb out of the valley certainly taxed both my legs and my breathing. The pain, was quickly forgotten walking across the plateau with its farmland and little villages. By the time I got to Barbadelo, I was even prepared to go off route to visit the little church. I purchased my CAMINO SHELL in Mouzos and shopkeeper gave me a lucky Camino wrist band. walking was becoming a rhythm and allowed for an appreciation of the surrounding beauty. Ferreiros at 13km was the designated lunch stop. I decided at this stage that I would like to walk into Portomarin, our destination for the day. Knowing it was nearly 10km away, I took the coach to Vilacha. What a feeling of accomplishment to make it down the very steep path into the Rio Mino valley, cross the bridge and climb the old steps “the staircase” into the town. (15km today)

The coach took us all back to our hotel in Lugo where after a fine dinner I was only fit for bed.


Portomarin to Palais De Rei: I started this stage on the coach, unwilling to start the day with a climb. The coach took me 7km out to Gonza. There was still quite an ascent into Ventas de Naron. A little old blind man sat in the Capela Da Magdalena stamping the Camino passports. I must have made an impression as I was the only pilgrim there at the time to receive a medal. The weather was glorious and the 4km to Ligonde for lunch seemed an easy task.  Its difficult to get going again after a rest, but I felt that another km to Airexe was withing my capabilities. And it was. However not much further on Michael and the white Fiat appeared and I was glad to catch a ride into the canopied plaza of Palas. (12km today)


Palais de Rei to Ribadiso da Baixo: I took the coach this morning to O Coto (the halfway point on our camino). The planned out-door mass was deferred till evening due to the change of weather. So with no need to wait, I proceeded through Leboreiro, Furelos to the lunch meet in Melide. The forests of oak and Eucalyptus saved me from the worst of the weather and a cup of coffee and some chips revived me enough to walk on to Boente. the last place to pick up the caoch before the end. At this stage I was wet and cold and so the coach was a no-brainer. I’m not sure if it was the rain or the tranquility of the forest paths, but today I found myself thinking of the three James in my life – father, brother and hubby- the three of them gone but not forgotten. It was great to have the time and the solitude to consider their different qualities and their effects on my life. Very appropriate reminiscence on the “WAY OF ST JAMES”. (12km today)


Ribadiso de Baixo to O Pedrouza: I could not believe that the noise outside my window this morning was driving rain. As we drove out to our starting point there was snow/sleet around the edges of the fields. There was little admiring scenery today – the main purpose was just to walk. With conditions underfoot slippy, I was delighted to walk alone and keep an eye on the ground. The walking poles were certainly a necessity to day. interestingly some pilgroms with two poles shared with our older walkers in the real spirit of Buen Camino. I never imagined there could be so much rain or that it could be so cold in the North of Spain. The scent of the wet eucalyptus was amazing and the forests did provide some shelter. The terraine was mostly flat – another help on a miserable day. Most pilgrims were availing of the bars and cafes in the little hamlets to change socks, dry our hats or have some warm drink. I was glad to see Fonzie, the driver in Santa Irene. I joined some of our group to have the much advertised Lasagne in the local bar.  Having completed 15km today, I was delighted to take the coach into O Pedrouza. We transferred hotels this evening from Lugo to Santiago. I have never welcomed a shower so much and a chance to get into dry clothes. Accommodation in Santiago was not as good as in Lugo but the food was way better. A bowl of Paella was a welcome end to the day…. then sleep in a room that closely resembled a laundry (15km today)


O Pedrouza to Santiago de Compostela: The only change to the weather this morning was that the rain was joined by strong winds. I decided to start the walk in Labacolla, 10km out from end. I wanted to be part of that “great approach to the shrine”. It was the least interesting walk as most of it was by roads, roundabouts and city streets. We were saturated. We gathered together when we entered the old town so that we could walk as a group into the Plaza Obradoira at the front of the cathedral. It was an awesome feeling – wet and cold and soreness forgotten – we’d made it.  Some cried, we all hugged. Photos were taken. We were glad to follow Michael to the hotel for a shower and change of clothes.  I returned to the Cathedral later in the evening. (14km today)


The highpoint of today was a tour of the Cathedral, seeing the saint’s tomb, ‘hugging’ the saint and attendance at Holy Thursday ceremonies in the Cathedral. We also took time for some retail therapy (an umbrells was top of everyone’s list), a hearty lunch and a small train tour. Luckily the poor quality of the tour was more than adequately compensated for by the laugh we had.

Will I walk the Camino again – probably not. But I am so glad to have had this experience and unique journey. I will remember the many people i met along the route and the stories we shared. I have received my Compostela cerificate having walked further than  I ever dreamed. My scallop shell, the iconic symbol of the Camino, will remind me of the ‘vieira’ painted on trees, paths, walls, tiles pointing the route to Santiago.

I would love to come back to Santiago, a beautiful old town and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Next time I might take a train out to  Finisterre. But for now, the end is the beginning. The goal of el Camino is to start a new camino, a new life journey. .


Lord we ask you to watch over us on our journey to Santiago de Compostela. Be for us: a companion on our journey, our guide at the crossroads, our strength in tiredness and out stronghold in danger, our light in darkness, be the inspiration for our walking, our shade in the heat, our consolation in dejection, and the power in our intuition. So that we may reach the end of our journey without harm, and return to our homes safely, joyfully and with pleasant memories of great achievement. AMEN – BUEN CAMINO



Fairy Tale Images - Free Download on Freepik



There are many fairytales about Old Trafford:


The fairytale resurgance of the club after the 1958 Munich air distaster and the courage and strength of one Matt Busby  to return to football and start all over again.

Alex Ferguson’s 25 year fairytale as the Old Trafford boss with the outstanding achievement of lifted 27 trophies – 12 Premier League titles, five FA Cups, four League Cups, two Champions Leagues and a Cup Winners’ Cup and and overseeing the rise of numerous world-class players including our own George Best and Roy Keane.

The fairytale careers of Roy Keane and George Best would also require mention.

Kevin Moran’s fairytale journey from being an All-Star in 1976, having played for the Dubs in Croke Park, to playing 231 games with Man Utd. in Old Trafford.


Free vector book with scene of knight and dragon fighting

On Saturday, December 23. 2023,  we read a new fairytale of Old Trafford, one written by Malachy Clerkin in The Sports Weekend, Irish Times. This one is a parody of The Pogues Fairytale of New York. Unlike the previous fairytales, this is a narratove of the dismal season(s) Man Utd have had recently.

Its been really difficult to remain loyal, (luckily my other “RED” club, Pat’s, stepped into the breach and gave me something to cheer about).

If you read the Clerkin article, there is also a very good Santa Baby take off, almost as good as the Miley Cyrus version. Neither of them are anywhere near as good as the Milis version sung at the Active Retirement Group in Naas at Christmas party.

My favourite page on The Irish Times


My favourite page on The Irish Times is without doubt the Bulletin Page on the Saturday edition (the page with the crosswords). I love the crosswords on the other days, but on Saturday it is the Thinking Anew article and Patsy McGarry’s In a Word that I read first. I often cut out the article to read again and again. I sometimes find an old article tucked away in a book or drawer and I enjoy the rereading. I had a friend once who used send me cut-out articles from magazines. My mother often kept articles that appealed to her, made her think or just amused her.


The article at the top of the page Thinking Anew always sets me thinking. Very often it’s based on the weekend’s scripture reading, with a link to a current issue.

  • December 16 was titled “Our anywhere and everywhere God” and discussed the links between the liturgical seasons and everyday ups and downs.
  • December 9 was titled “Waiting for God-oh” and discussed the importance of waiting and patience, quoting Leo Tolstoy “Everything comes in time to him who knows how to wait”.


In a Word as the title implies, takes a word and relates it to a current issue. It always finishes with the etymology of the word.

  • December 16 the word was Puddle and the article discussed how we are all like the child who jumps into a puddle, young at heart. We want Santy  (as he was called when I was a child) to provide our dreams- world peace, freedom from famine, an All-Ireland title for Roscommon.

PUDDLE from old English pudd, “a small pool of dirty water”.

This article discussd the bad press given to the month of November and suggests that Scorpios, born in September are described as “complicated, needy and and just plain difficult to get along with. (I know some very cheery Scorpios!) Follow the link to read the 19th Century poet, Thomas Hood’s poem November.

McGarry then compares Scoirpios to Saggitarians, born towards the end of the month. “Passionate and charming, clever, outgoing, and charismatic” who “can light up a room instantly and without trying“.

NOVEMBER, from Latin “novem” meaning “nine” for the ninth month of the Roman calendar.


Berlin 2023: Visiting a niece and the Christmas Markets


         When my niece moved to Berlin, I had the ideal opportunity to tick another item off my bucket list – Christmas Markets in Germany. Why Berlin? I had recently finished reading Linda Grant’s A Woman in Berlin, a shocking account of the lives of a mostly female population when the Russians took over the city. These victorious invaders were intent on making the women pay for the atrocities the German army had meted out as they advanced across Russia. I was also fascinated by the way the peoples and cities of Eastern Europe recovered from the atrocities of Nazism and Stalin: now I could take the opportunity to see how Berlin had recovered and renewed itself.

My last solo trip had started with flight cancellation so there was some trepidation when I arrived i Dublin Airport to see flights to Munich cancelled due to SNOW. Thankfully, Berlin was still open despite snow!



The Park Inn, Alexanderplatz, my home from home during my visit, was ideally situated for all my plans:  meeting my niece, historical highlights and Christmas markets. I always go for the Hop-On/Hop-Off experience to get an idea of a city and to help decide on where I will prioritise. So immediately after check-in and a quick lunch with two Leitrim ladies, I hopped on.


The Berlin Wall is a must on a trip to Berlin, so my first stop was the East Side Gallery, where the longest section of wall (almost 3km) was left standing.


It is now a unique piece of art painted by 118 artists in 1990. But there are also reminders of the harsh realities of what the wall meant to the population it was built to contain. I spent the afternoon rambling along by the Spree River, admiring the murals.

Of course, I had to have a coffee in Dean & Dave (a coffee shop chain) before returning to the hotel via the Marienkirche Christmas market.


I was there just as Santa arrived (by zip-line naturally).


I was very impressed however that right in the centre of the market was a lifesize crib with crowds of mams and dads queueing to tell their little ones the Christmas story.

Foregoing dinner, I feasted instead on the local delicacies – Gluhwein and Bratkartoffeln (panfried cripy potatoes, onions and bacon). It was delicious and the tables dotted around are designed to provided opportunity to chat as you eat and drink – a very hospitable way to spend an evening and soak up the atmosphere of the market.

DAY  2

A city tour was included in my itinerary and we boarded the bus with Isabel at 9am. Another visit to the Eastside Gallery, but this time with a more detailed description of life in East Berlin. She also explained the wide boulavardes – mostly a photo opportunity for Stalin to display his military strength.

We stopped for our own photo opp at Checkpoint Charlie.  I didn’t know that there were also a Checkpoint Alpha and Checkpoint Bravo. The adjacent  Checkpoint Charlie Museum was very over/underwhelming – with way too much information presented in too tight an area. Much more interesting was an outdoor area on the corner, almost hidden behind hoarding that detailed the very sad history of the area.


I abandoned the tour at Museumsinsel (Museum Island). While our guide dissuaded us from visiting the Berliner Dom, I wanted to see this Cathedral, the largest and most lavish in the city. How fortunate I was to arrive just as  an organist began playing the “largest and most important intact instrument with pneumatic action in the world”. It was wonderful to wander around this amazing building, almost destroyed in 1944, to the strains of organ music.



I wondered how you would allow this guy to be at the end of your daughter’s tomb????




John and Carmel had advised a visit to the DDR Museum which provided a narrative of the years 1945-1989, “a hands-on experience of history”. It is an interactive view of the years of propaganda, coercion and servility almost as if you were in the shoes of an East German. It is full of original articfacts, as well as installations that allow you to walk through one of the “new” apartments, to sit in an interogation room, to watch children at school, etc. Excellent.

Returning to the hotel, I dropped into the 700 year old St Marienkirche, “un eglise au coeur  de la cité”. The fresco of the Dance of the Dead is a pretty gruesome depiction of how death is the great leveller. I suppose if you lived through the bubonic plague and countless raging wars, death—and a gruesome death, at that—was a visible everyday reality for you  These images served as a reminder of one’s mortality and were intended as an inspiration to lead a pious life. The traces of paint are quite faint now but incredibly still there after almost 600 years.

I had dinner with my niece this evening in Chen Che, a Vietnamese restaurant with both a traditional interior and garden that served the most delicious Vietnamese drinks and dishes. It was great to get the opportunity to hear first hand about life in Berlin: she absolutely loves it. I even got to see her workplace as we strolled to the taxi rank.



Today I walked down the famous street, Unter den Linden to the Brandenburg Gate for a photo opp at this iconic site (very close to another iconic site, the Adler Hotel from where Michael Jackson dangled his son). I walked over to the Reichstag (but would have needed to book and get official clearance to visit).



Back by the Gate to the Holocaust-Denkmal, a memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, 2711 concrete pillars on undulating ground (like an ice rink after the snow and frost). It commemorates the 6 million Jews who were killed during WW2.

My “Hop-On” ticket came in handy today to travel down to Kurfurstendamm to see the Kaiser-Wilhelm Gedachtnis Kirche, a church which was destroyed in the Allied bombing raids of Berlin in 1943 but whose ruins have been maintained as a memorial to the destruction of war. A Hall of Remembrance houses a permanent exhibition of the mosaics and treasures from the old church.



A new church has been built that is pretty indescribable – follow the link to really understand its beauty and meaning. Google the story of the Stalingrad Madonna – so sad and yet uplifting!


I didn’t bother checking out the Ka De We, the Harrods of Berlin, figuring it would be out of my reach. Instead I rambled throught the market and found some lovely hand-crafted decorations.

I also visited the Europa-Center, the oldest shopping centre in Berlin (almost like The Square in Tallaght!) where I had late lunch.


Back in the Park Inn, I decided to have a German duck dinner – the red cabbage was to die for, before hitting back to a market for my last Gluhwein. Well my second last!


The Park Inn is beside the Fernehturm or TV tower, the tallest building in Berlin. Although everyone had said it was a MUST DO, the viewing platform was closed due to weather conditions while i was there. So I did the next best thing: got my photo beside it from 37 floor (viewing platform) of Park Inn.



Berlin was great – a return visit in Springtime or Autumn is certainly on the cards.





Knit & Stitch HARROGATE 2023

My October outing to Knitting and Stitching Show 2023 in Harrogate (second year) was really enjoyable. I stayed in The Crown Hotel as last year as it’s very close to the exhibition centre.


There were many highlights – Fellow feltmakers made for wonderful company, although they had accommodation elsewhere in the town. Just like last year, it was lovely to sample life in an English town for a day or two – the retail therapy was great especially in the Vintage shops – the excitement of rummaging through others cast-offs to find treasures .

Well done to those who chose our restaurants – the fare was delicious and so different. Although not on other’s list, I got to Betty’s for my breakie on the last day – always a treat in Harrogate. Lovely to see the craft of crochet poppies used to decorate the WW1 memorial acrtoss the road from the tea room.


I thought the standard of the exhibitions this year was far superior to last year – or maybe they just appalled to me more – the one on Domestic Violence was particularly evocative: touching and emotive messages embroidered on everyday cleaning cloths/dusters.

The Embroidery Guild as usual had a wonderful display of both skill and creativity within their craft. The Quilt exhibition again was a display of their members’ interpretations of many current issues.

This year I intended to be very disciplined about my spending! – I had a list of items I definitely wanted to buy – attachments for my sewing machine, some Wensleydale curly locks and fabric scraps. I certainly bought more than that but was pleased with my ability to say NO.

I was not as happy this year with the range of the workshops this year and certainly planned to limit the number – last year I ran from one to the next with little time to catch my breath. So I chose 2 workshops.

Not my finished product – mine got crushed in the case on return journey!!!

Machine embroidery – with Tyvek: It was the machine embroidery aspect that attracted me to this workshop, unfortunately the emphasis was on tyvek – an iron on fabric which reacts to heat. It was interesting but the limited availability of irons meant long times queueing. I’m not sure I’ll ever use it. I did get to try out machine embroidery but actually learned more from a fellow student than from the facilitator.




Embroidery Techniques: A recently graduated Embroidery student delivered this workshop – embroidering a Luna Moth using 4 basic stitches. The tutor was very well prepared this time but I don’t think she factored in the different skill sets of the group. About halfway through the workshop she admitted that we would not complete the project but she would show us the stitches – stem stitch and backstitch which I already knew but it was great to see how finely she worked; goldwork and Turkish Rug Knot which I’d never heard of. Luckily, we were given a wonderful little manual with which I was able to complete my Moth at home.

I was delighted to report back to FI committee that they do very well on choosing tutors who possess great teaching skills.





I’ve said it frequently: nobody does pomp like the British and this is certainly epitomised with their commemorations. Their annual Festival of Remembrance of WW1 on the 11 November is always particularly poignant. Having visited the Normandy WW2 cemeteries this year, Poppy Day was even more touching.

I watched the service in the Royal Albert Hall.

There were the usual quotes of some famous war poets:


They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: 
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
(from For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon)
Perhaps someday I shall not shrink in pain
To see the passing of the dying year,
And listen to the Christmas songs again
Although You cannot hear.

But, though kind Time may many joys renew,
There is one greatest joy I shall not know
Again, because my heart for loss of You
Was broken, long ago.
(from Perhaps 1916 By Vera Brittain, a nurse in WW1)
When you go home 
Tell them of us and say
For your tomorrow
We gave our today

(composed at the end of WW1 by wartime codebreaker, John Maxwell Edmonds, often called the Kohima epitaph)
The idealistic slogan "The war to end all wars" from the H.G. Wells’ 1914 book  The War That Will End War is usually used to describe WW1 little realising that the aftermath of that war contributed almost directly to WW2.

For many years we didnt acknowledge Poppy Day or its significance in many Irish lives. Happily, we’ve rectified that. The Irish Times today related the similarities of these past horrors with the catastrophe of current conflicts in the two articles on page 22 which emphasise the need for us all to take the side of PEACE.

Even in darkest places, there are those who keep a light shining

Thinking Anew: The horrors of the Hamas assault on Israel, and now of the bombing of Gaza, should not blind us to hope

Gordon Linney 11.11.23

Utopia is an idea worth clinging to. Otherwise, why get up in the morning?

Patsy McGarry 11.11.23


I watched the film Invictus (again) recently, probably as the Rugby World Cup 2023 was in its initial stages. The film told the story of Nelson Mandela’s first term as President of South Africa who enlisted the national rugby team as a symbol of unity in an Aparthid-torn land on their quest to win the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

I also watched One Team One Country, a very moving documentary on the same 1995 final.

Fast forward to Saturday, 28th October South Africa again emerged victorious, sweeping up many records as well as the Web Ellis Cup:
the first rugby nation to win four men’s Rugby World Cups
the second (after opponents New Zealand) to claim back-to-back title,
and undefeated by New Zealand in any Rugby World Cup final – twice they have defeated New Zealand in the final, in 1995 as Nelson Mandela’s dream and now again in 2023.


When I listened to the speech of their captain, Siya Kolisi, at the end of the match, it seemed as if Rugby is still as important and symbolic as it was in 1995. He made an incredible speech:

Image from

“Look what 1995 (and South Africa’s very first World Cup win) did for sport in our country. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for that, and the people that came before me. The people that made it possible for people of my colour to play.”

“People who are not from South Africa don’t understand what it means for our country. It is not just about the game. Our country goes through such a lot. We are just grateful that we can be here. I want to tell the people of South Africa ‘thank you so much’. This team just shows what you can do. As soon as we work together, all is possible, no matter in what sphere – in the field, in offices, it shows what we can do. I am grateful for this team, I am so proud of it.”

Image from

“There is so much that is wrong in our country,we are the last line of defence… there is so much division in our country but this team shows what people of different colours and backgrounds can do when they work together”.

These sentiments were echoed by his team-mate Faf de Klerk: “Hopefully this shows what unity and team-work can do… if we can come together like this, it can be a better country, and be a better world.”

I know very little about the game of Rugby – but if it means that much to a country – surely they are worthy winners. As a YouTuber commented: This Springbok team was special, not in talent, not in skill….special as they will be everlasting in our memories.

My Crafting Journey (3)

Feltmaking with Feltmakers Ireland


Driving through the Phoenix Park one Sunday morning, I noticed a group of women all carrying large bags congregating at a small building. Curious, I found a parking space and approached them to find out what was going on.



And that’s when my adventure into the world of felt began, a world where you take some fibres, wet and agitate them, or prod them with specialized needles so that the fibres become entangled or matted, and thus create a completely new fabric.

Everybody who has ever washed clothes has, at least once, felted unintentionally – felting is another name for the shrinking that happens when you put that treasured wool jumper into “too-hot” cycle in your washing machine.

However, it’s the differences between accidental shrinking and feltmaking that cast the felting spell on you: in feltmaking, you take control of the results you achieve; you engage with a group of like-minded creative people; you learn through practice from craft masters as well as fellow practitioners; you make new and life-long friends and sometimes pieces of art that really please you.

Perfecting skill:

International Feltmakers Association, offer classes that are specifically designed to hone your felting skills. I did some modules of CIFT  (cert in Feltmaking techniques) and did see some improvement in my feltmaking.

(a) making felt from a variety of wools; (b)  different edges


Workshops with fellow felters

Many fellow members of Feltmakers Ireland (FI) share their felting skills and techniques at workshops and Sunday Sessions. (a) Gabi McGrath delivered a workshop on textures and embellishments on a book cover; (b) Tamzen Lundy led members in a Christmas Workshop Sunday Session that was televised on RTE; (c) Liadain Butler, Niki Collier and Caoilfhionn O’Hanlon demonstrated how to use “Stained Glass” technique in needle felting. The work produced by the many participants was presented in the Pearse Museum and then at a Felt Festival in Vienna.



Master Classes:

FI organises an annual  Master class, often with an international practitioner (a) Boots with Natalya Brashovetska (b) My Place in Space with Marjolein Dallinga


I also attended Master classes with Wendy Bailye (50 Shades of Grey) and Anna Gunnarsdottir (3D Sculpture with Icelandic wool).

During Covid, many master classes were delivered online. (a) Molly Williams presented a series of classes on making Contemporary Dancers.  (b) Aniko Boros  (Baribon) Workshops taught a technique of nesting pebbles (or other objects) into fine felted jewellry. I used the technique to create a beach scene. (c) Yaroslava Troynich, a textile artist who loves felt and animals gives regular online classes on making puppets. I’ve worked with her to create sheep, hedgehogs, hares and foxes. Great fun! (d) the woven felted ball used a very exciting technique with pre-felt and was one of the workshops presented at a felting retreat organised by Corinna Nitschmann  – a week of felting online with a variety of artists.







Annual Exhibitions, Art Sales

I support the annual FI Exhibitions by submitting pieces on a decided theme. My flower vase was an unsuccessful entry for the Something Red Exhibition but was later sold at a local exhibition.  Pippi Longstocking was one of three pieces accepted for a members exhibition “Colour My World”. The “Pea Piece” as I called it (officially “Torthúil”) was part of the Bountiful Exhibition and resulted in my first commissions.


Swapping works internationally

IFA organises an annual swap. The theme is decided in May and the various participants (across the globe) are paired. Their pieces are swapped before a closing date and the results of the swap are published on the IFA website. (a) Woven is a vessel within a vessel, the interior being woven. (b) Brooch was made using the Baribon technique of nesting one item within another and inspired by Yeats poem Aedh wishes for the Cloths of Heaven.

Group Projects

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of FI, all members were asked to submit flowers that would be displayed as a “Field of Flowers” at 2023 Exhibition as well as at future FI activities. I beaded my three flowers before submitting them. In the past, I participated in a Make Bunting project.


Passing it on

Lastly, but certainly not least, i loved the experiences and joy of sharing felting skills with the next generation. I made dolly blankets with 30 first class kids – a truly wet and wild experience. Here are some coasters I made with my grandson. I think any activity that involves sudsy water and throwing wet objects around is particularly pleasing to small ones.

That’s all so far!!!


Bram Stoker Festival 2023


This was Bram Stoker weekend and there were activities all around Dublin.  The events I attended , while not directly connected with Bram or his character Dracula, celebrated blood and gore worthy of any horror story.  Both took place in the National Museum.



Hands-on History: Malady, Mourning and Mystery

I didn’t realise that there were “hands-on” collections in the National Museum. They are taken out for particular events and occasions.

For Hallowe’en weekend the Museum educators presented a range of objects from the Museum’s handling collection that reflect a history of life, disease and death.


Beef bone with marrow spoon

Stories about how bone marrow was extracted, the use of mercury to cure STD’s, mourning broaches which contained hair of the deceased, vials and measures of potions and powders, bandages, first aid kits, and booklets about health and safety.

Mourning brooch

I was particularly fascinated by the quotes from Bram Stoker’s Dracula:

I know what sorrows you have had, though I cannot measure the depth of them.

I fear no weapon wrought alone by man’s hand would have any effect on him.

There is a poison in my blood, in my soul, which may destroy me.

Now, little miss, here is your medicine. Drink it off, like a good child.

A world full of miseries and woes and troubles: Life, Disease and Death in Collins Barracks

The second event was billed as a tour with a Museum guide to “discover the chills, ills, and kills in Collins Barracks’ 300-year long history”. Our guide told a detailed and very graphic story of the trials and tribulations of life as a soldier living in the Barracks from the 1700s until the late 1900s, with a focus on (ill) health, as well as the transition from one of Europe’s oldest occupied Barracks into one of Ireland’s National Museums.

It certainly lived up to expectations. The horrors of Dracula are nothing compared to the grim stories of the residents of this building over the years.

I hadn’t realised that our overpopulated country of the late 1700’s provided the Commonwealth with a steady valuable resource – man power. Over half the British army was Irish and they carved out the Empire, playing a significant role in the Napoleonic war, Crimean War, Zulu War, Boer War and WW1.

The Royal Barracks, as it was called, was one of the oldest and largest inhabited barracks in Europe, housing up to 1500 men and two troops of horses. Life was hard for the ordinary soldier, with harsh discipline and cruel punishment for infringements. The Provost Jail was quite literally two black holes dug under the Provost House for about five prisoners each but frequently accommodating forty to fifty.

Living accommodations was dangerously inadequate and the levels of disease very high. A limited number of families were housed in the most unsanitary conditions of the barracks. Cholera and Typhoid were rampant.
When their husbands were away fighting, the women also faced frequent attacks from soldiers on the base. Life for wives and children in the slums outside the barracks was even worse with their husbands absent for years, many of the women were forced into prostitution. The Lock Hospitals which were established close to many military barracks caused huge social problems as women could be incarcerated there for many months for merely living beside the barracks.

Hundreds of prisoners were housed in the barrack prison after each of the many Irish rebellions. Our guide described the severe methods of interrogation and torture practiced, very often for the entertainment of the troops rather than for information gathering. Flogging with “the cat” was common. Edward Heppenstall, “the walking Gallows” gave many performances of his skills in the barracks square. Pitch capping was also a frequent source of amusement.


The importance of the Irish fighting in France

We were all delighted to escape the stories of misery and disease, when our guide took us inside to see the Stokes Tapestry. British army soldier Stephen Stokes made this amazing textile while he was stationed in Ireland.

Military life

More than 30 panels tell the story of his career, first in the cavalry (the Royal Dragoons) and then in the Dublin Metropolitan Police. Stokes spent more than 15 years working on the tapestry and showed it to Queen Victoria when she visited in 1849.

Note the imposing size of Irish compared to the diminutive militia

He omitted telling her of his Irish sympathies, although they were cleverly hidden in the tapestry.

The Royal Coat of Arms is depicted with the shamrock intertwined with roses and thistles all coming from the same stem. I doubt Queen Victoria would have supported its display at the Great Exhibition in London in 1851

My Crafting Journey (2)

Back to College

I retired in 2016. That September was the first, since I’d started Junior Infants in Warremount that I wasn’t at some school gate – Warrenmount for Junior Infants, Assumption, Walkinstown for the rest of Primary, Goldenbridge for Secondary, Carysfort College, Weavers Square to begin my teaching career, Ballycane as a mum with the lads, a number of Kildare schools as a sub and temporary teacher until my last permanent appointment to Scoil Choca, Kilcock.

Clare Island

Clare Island - Wikipedia

As a massive believer in lifelong learning, it was only natural in September 2016 I would undertake some learning experience.
I chose a course in weaving at Ballytoughy Loom, Beth Moran’s studio on Clare Island, Co Mayo. Beth’s passion for weaving came across in her advertising of the course. The island venue was also an attraction.

I had some limited experience with weaving. I had attended a week-long Teacher’s summer course in Gorey with Terry “the weaver” Dunne in 1998. The course was very much geared to providing classroom experiences for the students. We used very simple looms and I was delighted to come home with samples of bookmarks, placemats and pictures.

This time i wanted to experience weaving “just for me”. Beth’s studio was a treasure trove of yarns and looms.  Although she gave really clear instructions on setting up the loom, I had complete freedom in the choice of yarn, the colour and the design.



I decided to make a table runner.  Beth’s philosophy of “building a story, one thread at a time” was inspirational and she told lots of stories about technique and colour as we worked. I loved my choice of linen threads in reds, yellows and purples. I was particularly delighted that I completed my project and came home with a runner for my table.